Getting a Handle on Life

“Choose a good reputation over great riches, for being held in high esteem is better than having silver or gold. The rich and the poor have this in common: the Lord made them both. A prudent person foresees the danger ahead and takes precautions; the simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences. True humility and fear of the Lord leads to riches, honor, and long life” –  Proverbs 22:1-4

by Barry C. Black, Chaplain, United States Senate

January 2019

When I was in college, my girlfriend was a babysitter for my preaching professor. I would go to his home and spend time with my sweetheart, while she took great care of the professor’s son. With the passing of time, my girlfriend and I parted ways, seemingly more to the disappointment of my mentor than to either her or me. “This breakup was God’s will for our lives,” I said to my teacher.

“Barry,” he responded. “Sometimes we can abort the God’s will.”

One way not to abort God’s will is to strive to get a prudent handle on your life. God wants us to have a prudent handle on our lives, first, because He has a plan for the life of each person of faith. In Jeremiah 29:11, NLT, God permits us to see what He desires for humanity: “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” When we ignore the admonitions of sacred scriptures, we prepare ourselves to lose our grip on prudent living.

Second, God wants us to have a prudent handle on our lives because we have a heaven to win and a destruction to avoid. Matthew 7:13-14, NLT, states, “You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose the easy way. But the gateway to life is small, and the road is narrow, and only a few ever find it.” Life is then indeed real and earnest and we must vigilantly strive to walk in the straight and narrow way by getting a prudent handle on our actions. So how do we get this prudent handle on life? We get it by using five biblical strategies:

Seek a good name above riches.
Know that all people are equal before God.
Act in the light of coming danger.
Refuse to live recklessly.
Reap the harvest of humility and reverence.

Seek a Good Name Above Riches

First, getting a prudent handle on your life involves maintaining your good name. Proverbs 22:1 admonishes, “Choose a good reputation over great riches, for being held in high esteem is better than having silver or gold.” Choosing honor over material gain is so important because great riches aren’t always a blessing. In Luke 12, Jesus told the story of a rich fool. This man possessed such wealth that he had to build new warehouses to store his stuff. He prepared for a retirement life of leisure and contentment. Jesus said that the man was a fool because he didn’t know that he would die that very night. In Luke 12:15 Jesus said that a person’s life doesn’t consist in the abundance of the things he or she possesses. Get a prudent handle on your life by choosing a good name over possessions.

Know that All People are Equal before God

Second, get a prudent handle on your life by respecting the equality of humanity. Proverbs 22:2, NLT, states, “The rich and the poor have this in common: The Lord made them both.” Acts 17:26, NLT, seems to agree with this proverb, for it tells us, “For one man he created all the nations throughout the whole earth. He decided beforehand which should rise and fall, and he determined their boundaries.” Galatians 3:28 NLT reinforces this idea of human equality with these words: “There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Humans also have the common equality of being sinners, “For all have sinned and come short of God’s glory” (Romans 3:23). The poet put it this way, “There is a little bit of bad in the best of us, and a little bit of good in the worst of us. So it behooves the best of us not to talk about the rest of us.” Respect the equality of humanity before God, as you strive to keep a prudent handle on your life. Think of the chaos and tragedy that could be avoided in our world if people truly respected the sanctity of life and the worth of human personality.

Act in Light of Coming Danger

Third, in order to get a prudent handle on your life, you must learn to see danger from afar. Proverbs 22:3 says, “A prudent person foresees the danger ahead and takes precaution.” We see this manifestation of prudence in sacred scriptures. For example, the parents of Moses knew about Pharaoh’s genocidal intentions, so they made a small basket, placing their helpless child in it to float on the Nile River, not certain he would survive. They were desperate, but they did the best they could (Exodus 2:1-5, NLT). Scripture offers another example of avoiding danger when David, knowing the wrath of King Saul, hid from him and escaped death (1 Samuel 19). Elijah, aware of Queen Jezebel’s rage, found a secret sanctuary in a cave (1 Kings 19). These three people didn’t declare, “I will trust in the Lord; He will miraculously make things right.” They seemed to understand that faith must be accompanied by works (James 2:14, NLT).

This anticipation of coming danger requires a willingness to habitually exercise caution and circumspection. We see a great example of this with the patriarch Joseph in Genesis 39. The wife of Joseph’s boss repeatedly attempted to seduce him. Joseph not only rebuffed her overtures, but sought to even avoid being around her (Genesis 39:10). The great Jewish leader Daniel is another example of habitual circumspection. His enemies, in Daniel 6, scrutinized Daniel’s life and actions, attempting to catch him making a moral misstep. Daniel, however, was so squeaky clean that his adversaries reached the following conclusion: “Our only chance of finding grounds for accusing Daniel will be in connection with the requirements of his religion” (Daniel 6:5, NLT). What a wonderful tribute from his enemies.

Refuse to Live Recklessly

Fourth, you can get a prudent handle on your life by refusing to live recklessly. Proverbs 22:3, NLT, also reminds us, “The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences.” Samson provides us with illustrations of simpleton living. He should have learned that reckless living can bring disasters. He played dangerous games. In Judges 16, he went to visit a prostitute in the city of Gaza. The Philistines locked the gates of the city to keep Samson from escaping, but his strength was so great that he broke through the gates to safety, or so he thought. Little did he know that this miraculous escape so alarmed his enemies that they hired a woman named Delilah to seduce him and discover the secret of his great strength. Delilah succeeded; Samson was captured and blinded by his enemies. His recklessness caused him to lose the prudent handle on his life, resulting in his death.

Reap the Harvest of Humility and Reverence

The final step to getting a handle on life is to reap the harvest of humility and reverence. And what is that harvest? Proverbs 22:4, NLT, provides the answer: “True humility and fear of the Lord leads to riches, honor, and long life.” Why is this so? Perhaps Psalm 84:11, NLT, can help us, “For the Lord God is our light and protector. He give us grace and glory. No good thing will the Lord withhold from those who do what is right.” What an amazing and satisfying way to get a prudent handle on your life.

Imagine how much better our nation and world would be if every person of faith lived to guard his or her reputation. We would probably see a drop in crime and greater unity among people. Imagine how much better things would be if people would respect the equality of humanity before God. It would probably help eliminate much of the racism and discrimination in our world. What do you think would happen if more people recognized danger from afar and, therefore, refused to live recklessly? I believe that such a constructive lifestyle would bring a harvest of riches, honor, and longevity to our nation and world.

You can get a prudent handle on life. Just start working on the first of the five biblical strategies, seek a good name above riches. Every two or three months choose another of the strategies until you complete the five, and then begin again. Get a prudent handle on your life.

And don’t forget Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s challenge to us in his poem “A Psalm of Life”:

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;
Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.
Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.

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